The Thinning Veil: What is Samhain?
I have always LOVED Halloween - who doesn't!? - free candy, costumes, pumpkin carving...I remember the excitement I always felt in October as a kid. I also remember when it started to fade...right around the time I was deemed "too old for trick-or-treating" (this is never true, to be clear!).
However, my excitement returned full-force when I learned about Samhain: a celebration on October 31st (to November 1st) that is often thought to be the same as Halloween,
but it is not.
Samhain (pronouced SAH-win) is an ancient Celtic festival that marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, the “darker half” of the year. In Gaelic custom, celebrations like feasts, bonfires, rituals, and even bobbing for apples would take place and we can see how, over time, this inspired the modern holiday of Halloween.
What I was most intrigued to learn, though, was how Samhain relates to the
"Veil Between Worlds" and it's mythical "thinning" at this time of year.
Lifting The Veil
So what exactly is this "Veil between Worlds"? Think of it as a symbolic gateway that separates the physical world from the spiritual realm.
The autumn months on the Wheel of the Year represent a season of death,
which is really about transition and change. During this time, many around the world believe that the Veil Between Worlds thins, becoming more permeable.
While stories of strange rituals and conjuring of spirits may leave some feeling uneasy about what this means, the thinned veil most importantly provides the opportunity to honour those who have come before us.
Honouring The Dead
As a spiritual person coming from a Celtic lineage, I felt a little sad that the traditions of Samhain were no longer as commonly practised or passed down through generations.
I craved a stronger inter-generational connection, and Samhain showed me that our ancestors do not need to be here with us physically for this to happen.
Some rituals you might try this Samhain could include:
Ancestor Stories: Ask your living relatives about the family members you never met. Encourage them to share stories and memories that can make you feel closer to them.
A Samhain Nature Walk: The festivities and philosophies behind Samhain are deeply rooted in Nature. While you walk in a natural area, observe and contemplate what you see, hear, smell, and touch. Experience yourself as part of the Circle of Life and reflect on birth and death as beautiful cycles of Nature.
Ancestor Alter and/or Feast for the Dead: To honour those who have passed on, you might like to place pictures and heirlooms on a flat surface where you can light candles around them. You might also like to cook a feast with your family, leaving a chair empty and placing a plate of food on the table in front of it as a symbolic offering to your deceased loved ones and ancestors.
Embracing All Aspects
I still really LOVE Halloween; spooky season is so fun and cathartic! But now, as I slowly learn more about the roots of Samhain and Gaelic culture, I am also prompted to
peer beyond the veil and connect with my ancestors.
No matter your beliefs, I invite you to explore some of the deeper history of October 31st.
Consider it a reminder to pause and reflect, and find your own special way(s) to honour all those - known and unknown - that may still walk with us on the other side of the veil
...now closer than ever.
Happy Samhain! Happy Halloween!
RYT & Spiritual Seeker